Dave Galvin, UK franchise sales manager at Papa John’s, explains how to get the most from discovery days, the two-way opportunity for potential franchisees and franchisors to meet
When buying a franchise, it is important to ensure you have researched the opportunity carefully. The decisions you make following the outcome of your analysis of the various business options available could potentially affect you and the life of your family for years to come. Discovery days are a useful aspect of the research you need to undertake, so ensure you prepare for them to gain the maximum insight possible.
Discovery days are usually free, although places on them need to be booked in advance. They offer the chance to find out about a franchise in a fairly informal setting, with no obligation on either side to make a commitment. Usually, a franchisor will hold a discovery day at its corporate headquarters, where it will present information to numerous or individual potential franchisees about how the business is run. Areas likely to be covered include the product or service offering, training and support and marketing the company offers. You will also get the chance to meet staff and franchise managers and sometimes franchisees, as well as gaining an insight into the company culture.
During your quest for the perfect franchise, you will undertake much desk research. However, a discovery day will more than likely be your first face-to-face meeting with one of your selected franchisors. This interaction is key and a chance to ensure you can get along with the franchise managers and support staff at head office as, if you decide to invest in the franchise, you will inevitably be working very closely with them.
Arranging to attend a discovery day should be the conclusion of detailed research to make sure the franchise is the type of opportunity that might suit you. At this point you should be narrowing down a shortlist of suitable franchises. It is advisable to ensure you plan to attend the discovery day of at least one other franchise company - perhaps even a competitor - so you are able to make comparisons between the way they operate. Before you attend a discovery day, list the criteria important to you in relation to the purchase of a business. These points will be individual to you, but might include things like:
* I must like and be enthusiastic about the product.
* I am ambitious, so would like the chance to expand in the future.
* I need to earn money early on, so I must be able to get the business up and running quickly
* I need an income of a specific amount per year to support my family.
* I need to like and get along with the people from head office.
Having these ‘tick boxes’ clear in your mind before you meet the franchisor will help you hone the type of questions you will need to ask.
Armed with your list of questions, aim to find out as much as possible about the organisation, including how it is set up, its expansion plans, marketing support offered, what training is given, what your investment covers and what support is provided. The list is long, but you need to be thorough.
Don’t be afraid to discuss money. You need to know what the investment level is, the average franchisee’s turnover and the likely income. Are these figures based on facts or estimates?
Similarly, ask about the negatives. What things do franchisees find the hardest to deal with during the start-up stage? Have any franchisees failed, and if so why? How has the recession affected the business opportunity?
Remember, on the day you will be ‘sold to’. This is because one of the main challenges franchisors face is finding the best people to invest in their businesses. They will be aiming to attract the top candidates and so, rather like in a job interview, will be highlighting the ‘good bits’ and showing their best side. Asking to talk to several existing franchisees, either during or after the event, is essential to get a more realistic picture of what it’s really like to be a franchisee.
The franchisor will also be sounding you out. The company knows the sort of people who do well in the franchise network and will be aiming to see if you will potentially fit in. For this reason, aim to look smart and come over as best you can. With many franchises, experience is not always necessary. Most franchisors are looking for friendly, dynamic, outgoing and enthusiastic franchisees, so demonstrating a genuine interest in the business - which by now you will hopefully have - will go down well.
From the franchisor’s point of view, attending one of its discovery days is a small test of your commitment. If you have travelled to the company’s head office, it demonstrates you are serious about researching the opportunity - which is important.
Discovery days are a two-way opportunity for potential franchisees and franchisors to meet. Keep an open mind about the presentations, and remember you are being sold to. However, by asking some of the more difficult questions you should find that discovery days offer the chance to get a sense of how the franchise operates and if it will suit you and your situation.